Task Force on Strengthening Marriage and Families

(Update: Because the signatures of state legislators and other officials are still coming in, we decided to wait until January to officially present the letter to Wade Horn and key congressional leaders. That means that you can still ask legislators in your state to sign. Please forward any additional names that you gather to my office.  - Mark Anderson,  manderso@azleg.state.az.us)

Co-Chairs Arizona Representative Mark Anderson, Oklahoma Secretary of Health and Human Services Jerry Regier, and New Jersey Assemblyman Rev. Alfred Steele

November 15, 2001

The Honorable William Thomas
Chairman, House Ways and Means Committee

The Honorable Charles Rangel
Ranking Member, House Ways and Means Committee

The Honorable Wally Herger
Chairman, House Human Resources Subcommittee

The Honorable Ben Cardin
Ranking Member, House Human Resources Subcommittee

The Honorable Max Baucus
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee

The Honorable Charles Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Finance Committee

Dear House and Senate Leaders:

We write as a task force of state legislators and Cabinet officials to express our
strong recommendation for the inclusion of rigorous outcome performance standards and funding allocation for marriage and family strengthening initiatives in the upcoming re-authorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

With your support and leadership, the TANF program over the past five years has made phenomenal gains in moving low-income Americans from welfare dependency to self-sufficiency.   During the same time period, however, two of the 1996 Act�s congressionally mandated objectives, to end dependence by promoting marriage and to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families, have been largely neglected.   A primary reason for this is that strong performance incentives and clear outcome measurements embodied in the TANF authorization in its work requirements and objectives were not matched in the congressional objectives for marriage and family strengthening.

The consequences of this are devastating.    As you heard in congressional hearings in the past year, 80% of child poverty occurs among children outside of two-parent households, and a child raised without the emotional and economic support of a married father and mother are seven times more likely to live in poverty.    The National Fatherhood Initiative has indicated that every night in America, 40% of children go to bed without their father in the home.

We as state officials concerned with this issue, have concluded based on our experience with TANF, that the next five years of reform must place marriage, parenting and family strengthening on the front burner.   Our state and national neglect of this issue, as former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan prophetically warned, has contributed to an inter-generational downward spiral of fatherlessness and family decline that have resulted in tremendous state and federal welfare costs.

We therefore urge the United States Congress and the Bush Administration to set forth the following provisions in the TANF re-authorization legislation:

v Establish bonuses and performance standards for state activities to increase the marriage rate and strengthen fatherhood, parenting and family formation, along with the prior enacted bonuses and performance standards for reducing dependency and out-of-wedlock pregnancy prevention;

v Requirement for state reporting on two-parent marriage formation in the TANF caseload on an annualized basis with appropriate funding provided for this requirement;

v Designation of 10% of TANF funds for marriage education and skills development, responsible fatherhood, parenting and community programming support through a combination of state block grant provisions and discretionary grants to be administered by the Administration for Children and Families.

We greatly appreciate your leadership on these issues and look forward to discussing our recommendations with you.

Rep. Mark Anderson, Chairman Arizona Human Services Human Services Committee

Secretary Jerry Regier , Oklahoma Health and  Human Services

Assemblyman Alfred Steele, New Jersey Assembly

Sen. Donzella James, Georgia

Rep. Doug Hart, Chairman Michigan Family and Children Service Committee

Sen. Mark Boitano, New Mexico

(note:  identical copy will be addressed and sent to President Bush and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson)

Signatories as of December 14, 2001

Senator Loren Leman Alaska
Representative Bob Robson Arizona
Representative Gary Pierce Arizona
Representative Jake Flake Arizona
Representative Jeff Hatch-Miller Arizona
Representative Karen Johnson Arizona
Representative Laura Knaperek Arizona
Representative Linda Gray Arizona
Representative Mark Anderson Arizona
Representative Randy Graf Arizona
Representative Robert Blendu Arizona
Representative Russell Pearce Arizona
Senator David Petersen Arizona
Senator Ken Bennett Arizona

Representative Debbie Stafford Colorado
Representative Mark Paschall Colorado

Senator Stephen Wise Florida

Representative Len Walker Georgia
Senator Donzella James Georgia

Representative Jeff Thompson Indiana

Representative Melvin Nufeld Kansas

Representative Tony Perkins Louisiana

Senator Alex Mooney Maryland

Representative Barb VanderVeen Michigan
Representative Doug Hart Michigan
Representative Gerald VanWoerkom Michigan
Representative Jerry O. Koiiman Michigan
Representative Jerry Vander Roest Michigan
Representative Joanne Voorhees Michigan
Representative Jud Gilbert Michigan
Representative Ken Bradstreet Michigan
Representative Laura Toy Michigan
Representative Lauren Hager Michigan
Representative Mark Jansen Michigan
Representative Mary Ann Middaugh Michigan
Representative Mike Pumford Michigan
Representative Patricia Birkholz Michigan
Representative Paul DeWeese Michigan
Representative Ron Jelinek Michigan
Representative Susan Tabor Michigan
Representative Triette Reeves Michigan
Representative Wayne Kuipers Michigan

Representative Annie Reinhart Missouri
Representative Carl Bearden Missouri
Representative Linda Barteslmeyer Missouri
Representative Rex Rector Missouri
Representative Rod Jetton Missouri

Representative Ken Peterson Montana

Senator Maurice Washington Nevada

Representative Carlos Gonzalez New Hampshire

Assemblyman Alfred E. Steele New Jersey

Senator Mark Boitano New Mexico

Representative Bill Seitz Ohio

Representative Forrest Claunch Oklahoma
Representative Jari Askins Oklahoma
Representative Ray Vaughn Oklahoma
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Jerry Regier Oklahoma
Senator Carol Martin Oklahoma
Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson Oklahoma
Senator Scott Pruitt Oklahoma

Senator Howard Stephenson Utah

Lt. Governor John Hager Virginia

Senator Bob Welch Wisconsin

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